tagged w/ Twilight Movie
As I packed in preparation to visit my family this summer, I fantasized about what awaited me: long days nothing to do but stare at the water, swim, and read my book from start to finish, with no interruptions.
I settled on Adam Werbach’s recently published book, “Strategy for Sustainability.” Adam’s book proved to be more inspiring than the title suggested, and I appreciated his linguistic prowess in between stats, facts, and bullet points while discussing a new corporate paradigm for sustainability. So I was content until I made one fatal flaw, I watched the movie Twilight. I instantly borrowed the second book in the series, and my obligatory moments of reading turned into rapid-fire-steal-every-moment-I-can-away-from-the-family-I-traveled-across-the-country-to-visit so-I-can-find-out-what’s-going-to-happen-next.
Truth be told, I’m a sucker for vampire stories. So when my mother inquired about my fascination, I was a tad shocked by what flew from my mouth: Not an explanation that the stories are...well…hot, but rather a tirade on and how the modern day vampire story is just a metaphor for the sustainability challenges of our time. Who knew?
There is a theme that runs through all of the modern day vampire stories: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Twilight, and True Blood all revolve around a central character who is inherently torn to fight their true nature: which is to kill in order to survive. The modern day vampire stories all have central characters who have found a new way to survive in the world, a way which is different than their predecessors’.
1. In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the vampire Angel buys blood from the hospital and keeps it in his fridge (and then protects Buffy the vampire slayer and kills bad vampires).
2. In the Twilight series, the Cullen family turns “vegetarian” (i.e. they only eat animals and not people).
3. In True Blood, the vampires eat True Blood, a blood substitute developed in Japan.
Yet at the end of the day, they are all still life sucking murderers fighting that bad part of themselves that’s very nature is designed to kill bodies and destroy souls.
The stories get exciting when the main heartthrob is tortured by the fear that the nature of what he is will kill the thing he loves most. In Buffy, Angel loves Buffy, in Twilight, Edward loves Bella, and in True Blood, Bill loves Sookie. As much as these male vamps desire their female morsels…I mean, mortals… if they give in to their truest desire…which is to suck their blood…they will either destroy them by killing them, or destroy their truest essence by killing their soul and transforming them into a vampire.
I think I love this story because in so many ways (not to be melodramatic or anything), I live this story. Every day I fight my impulses in the name of saving the planet as we know it. The story of the times we live in is that the nature of our culture and society is to consume past the point of sustainability; yet if we continue to give in to our desire to consume, we will either destroy or transform the world we live into something that lacks the soul that we fell in love with in the first place.
As we feed our desires for food, travel, beautiful clothes, big houses, fast cars, the latest technology, we create more. The more we create, the more we consume. The more we consume, the more we kill.
And we are killing off the things I love most. The oceans are filling with plastic debris at an alarming rate and changing the food chain cycles of the ocean. Samples from the ocean are coming up with more plastic particles than plankton.
TED Talks - Charles Moore: Sailing the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
We are wiping our asses with virgin forests.
We are in the midst of the 6th mass extinction (the first mass extinction caused by humankind).
So it’s a hell of a lot more fun to read the Twilight series than one more article about dolphin slaughter, polar bears drowning, local rivers filled with dead fish, virgin forests decapitated, or sharks on the verge of extinction.
Whatever you call it, global warming or climate change, the question remains, how will we fight our internal nature? I just learned that my diet creates a larger carbon footprint than my travel. If I didn’t know better, I’d say our modern society is breeding one helluva mega coven of vampires.
But are we dealing with a case of nature vs. nurture? Are we true vampires? Vampires are turned into soulless blood sucking beings against their will. Is our society and capitalistic systems constructed in such a way that forces us into being something our original nature never intended us to be? It is easy to point to the majority of aboriginal and native tribal life styles, from which we all originate, as being more aligned with living sustainable living practices: aka insuring that the planet would be able to continue to feed and house future generations.
But I am horrified when I examine the impact of just the first few hours of my day. I wake on my eco-friendly mattress but the wood my bed is made from probably comes from the South America. My night clothes, a gift, were made in China and have the sweat of child labor and and the weight of a heavy carbon foot print on them. I reach for water from a glass from Pier One imports (I contacted them via twitter inquiring about how their productions cycle: the informed the glasses I own were hand made in China, but when I asked about their carbon offset program: no answer). I get dressed with clothes that are mostly from consignment stores, so at least I am reusing, but am still knowledgeable that the garment industry has a complex supply chain that has a significant carbon footprint. I walk though the house, aside from the most recent layer of non toxic paint I put on myself, it is mostly made with toxic processes.
I drink water from the tap, which comes from the Hetch Hetchy damn and reservoir in Yosemite National Park. The damn that buried the Hetch Hetchy Valley was once described as "a wonderfully exact counterpart" of Yosemite Valley, and therefore "one of nature's rarest and most precious mountain temples." So this is what I think of when I water my garden. I take great pleasure in the orchids that we have (instead of cut flowers) that are more than likely flown in from Hawaii, make a shake that includes organic bananas (at least I’m not poising the workers that harvest them) and then I hop on my bike which was manufactured in Taiwan, and casual car pool to work. I then get a cup of peets coffee, which while sustainably harvested, but still comes from half way around the world, and the I…well, you get the point.
Nearly everything I touch feels like it has a destructive element to it, either it was made via unfair labor, used the land through unsustainable practices, has a mammoth carbon footprint, or is dangerous to throw away. It makes me feel like… a monster. A vampire monster to be exact, sucking the life and soul out of this planet just in order to sustain my own life.
Perhaps I can find hope in learning a few lessons from the champions of the vampire world. You know the ones, the vampires who overcame their nature to kill and who use their super powers to protect what they cherish and hold dear to them (see how reading Twilight has become an important part of my research for this blog post?).
There are several key lessons I take from the vampire stories that may be the key to saving the world as we know it:
Lesson 1: Vampires have had time to learn from their mistakes, and act on what they learn. With time on their side, the vampires’ ability to live forever provides plenty of time to ponder and learn from their mistakes. They have to do what we do not: live with the consequences of their actions for eternity. Every champion character is able to fight his true nature because the price they would pay if they gave in to it their desires is too high.
Lesson 2: The vampires who are creating a whole new way of life are “younger” vampires. They are usually the 100-500 year-old vampires that make major changes (with a few exceptions of course). It would seem that it is easier to develop new habits when you haven’t had the old habits for thousands of years. The new environmental organizations popping up are showing great promise, addressing the climate crisis with unprecedented energy and unique collaborations. 350.org, The Energy Action Coalition and 1Sky are just a few of the inspired groups that have recently emerged.
Lesson 3: At the end of the day, the vampires decided to change their “true nature” so they can live with the people they love, rather than live a lonely and isolated life. Lets get real, we all need motivation, and love is a great motivator. The modern day vampire show doesn’t show us much about how the vampires transitioned from being evil blood sucking murderers to developing the will power and self control it takes to become the “good vampire,” but it does show us that not wanting to kill what you love most is a great motivator to stay "clean."
If I were to activate a super power it would be to learn from and act on the mistakes of our the past generations at hyper speed. Can Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, can Jack jump over the coal powered smoke stack?
When given the chance to choose, the mass majority of people on the planet choose to consume everything that is available to them. It is a conscious choice to want less. But now we are having to develop a new skill: saying no in the face of plenty.
So I’ll leave you with some good news: Air pollution is decreasing, there is an army of people dedicating their lives to saving the planet, and there is more information available that points to the problems and the solutions than ever before.
So remember the millennial mantra: More is killing us: less will sustain us.
And remember the vampires: if they made conscious decisions to find new alternatives to sucking blood and killing the things they desire, than so can we.
Sarah Haskins in Target Women: Vampires (video)
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